SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney easily won Utah in Tuesday's general election, while Gov. Gary Herbert secured a win and U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch defeated his Democratic challenger to serve a seventh term in office.
Romney was virtually assured a victory in the heavily Mormon state where he oversaw the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, while Republicans in numerous other state and federal races also were poised for wins.
The tightest race, however, remained over the newly-created District 4 where incumbent six-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, 52, faced Republican Mia Love.
Love, 36, a Mormon and the daughter of Haitian immigrants, gained momentum after scoring a coveted speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, and garnering endorsements and fundraising help from Ann Romney, GOP Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The mayor of Saratoga Springs held a slight lead in the polls, and stands to become the nation's first black GOP woman in Congress if she wins, knocking out Utah's only Democratic representative in Washington. Matheson took a chance at running in the new, more urban District 4, rather than his sprawling, remapped District 2 that covers most of southwest Utah.
Voters on Tuesday also chose to re-elect Hatch over Democrat Scott Howell, who garnered headlines recently when he made the incumbent's age and the senator's 36 years in office a major point of his campaign. Howell, 58, sent emails to voters suggesting the 78-year-old might retire or die before the end of his term.
Hatch's campaign countered that the longtime incumbent had no plans to do either.
"I'll do the best I can for my seventh term," Hatch said after being declared the winner Tuesday night. "I will be the most senior Republican in the Senate. This will be my last term."
In a GOP sweep for the top ticket races, Herbert defeated Democratic challenger Peter Cooke, a retired Army general, to serve his first full term.
Herbert, 65, became governor in 2009 when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman joined the Obama administration as the ambassador to China. He had been the heavy favorite in a state that has not elected a Democratic governor since Scott Matheson in 1980.
"I'm honored to get four more years as governor of Utah," Herbert said. "It's humbling to have this victory tonight."
Across the state, Republicans held major leads over Democrats. Romney, a Mormon and graduate of Brigham Young University, had broad support in Utah, where more than 60 percent of residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, despite not winning the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper.